Members of Vassalboro American Legion Post #126 plan to donate 200 Christmas stockings to veterans at Togus, in Augusta. Sew for a Cause made and donated 200 Christmas stockings for this project. The stockings will be filled with personal care products and snacks. Anyone wishing to donate personal care items, snacks or monetary gifts can contact James Kilbride, adjutant for American Legion Post #126, at 616-3148.
Vassalboro school board members got positive reports on the opening of school and the financial situation at their Sept. 20 meeting.
Principal Ira Michaud reported that staff members and students are starting the fall semester cheerfully. Eliminating masking and distancing requirements helped, he wrote: “For the first time in over two years school feels more relaxed and everyone feels more connected.”
Soccer games are under way and after-school clubs will be starting in early October.
Finance director Paula Pooler reported that the 2022-23 budget shows no problems. The unaudited 2021-22 budget, for the fiscal year that ended June 30, says the undesignated fund balance increased substantially, to over $1.2 million, she said.
Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer contrasted that preliminary figure with 2018, when the school department had a deficit of more than $250,000.
Pooler said part of the money came from additional state revenue during the pandemic. Another substantial portion is pandemic related, but less happily: school officials saved about $145,000 in payroll, because they were unable to fill positions.
Pooler does not expect such positive numbers in the future. School officials will make recommendations for using the surplus as part of 2023-24 budget planning.
Jennifer Lizotte joined board members to talk about the before and after school daycare program that has been housed at Vassalboro Community School for many years. There is less space for the program this year, raising questions about the agreement with school authorities.
Lizotte said the program operates weekdays from 6:30 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m. Currently 44 youngsters are enrolled, and she has a growing waiting list.
School board members agreed the service is valuable to Vassalboro parents. They will continue to monitor the situation.
The next regular Vassalboro school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, Oct. 20.
Reminder to submit school lunch application
A reminder to all parents of Vassalboro Community School students: if you have not yet filled out and sent in your application for free and reduced-price school meals, please do so as soon as possible.
And do not be dismayed if you get a rejection: your children attending VCS will still get free breakfasts and lunches, because Maine is one of two states providing free school meals (California is the other).
The applications are important, officials said at the Sept. 20 school board meeting, because the number of qualified students determines the level of funding VCS receives under the federal Title One program and some state funding programs. Underreporting means VCS will not get its fair share of outside funding.
For many years grangers in Vassalboro celebrated fall’s bounty with a harvest supper featuring food items such as a pig roast, international foods, homemade bread, and seasonal pies. Since the start of 2020 in-person programming has been limited and in some cases, completely ceased. This October the East Vassalboro grange once again opens its doors and will host a Fall harvest supper. The menu will use all locally sourced ingredients, from wheat and apples to dairy, vegetables and meat all grown or raised on nearby farms.
This year’s supper is especially important since the Grange is in great need of replenishing their funds. Unable to run programming for two years, the financial reserves which go to maintaining building costs such as insurance, electricity, and water are at an all-time low. The Harvest Dinner is organized by a core group of grange members who will be harvesting, gleaning, processing, cooking, and baking foods for the next month. The Vassalboro grange is using the event to re-ignite a programming based in agriculture, rural-living, and self-sufficiency, which goes along with their mission and values for fostering a vibrant rural community and economy in central Maine.
Historically the grange was a hub for multi-generational gathering and agricultural education in addition to a community center offering dances, workshops, and events like plays and local meals. Back in June there was a Strawberry Social with a talk given by longtime grange member Holly Weidner on how to make “zero waste” or plastic-free cleaning products such as laundry soap, dish detergent, and personal care body products. Attendees snacked on homemade biscuits topped with strawberries from Full Fork Farm and whipped cream from Two Loons Farm (both in China) while Holly demonstrated alternatives to purchasing soaps that normally come in plastic containers. Recipes for folks to do the same at home were handed out at the end.
Continuing in the spirit of knowledge sharing and hands-on community gathering, leading up to the Harvest Supper will be a day of making applesauce and sauerkraut made with fruit from Lemuix’s Orchard in Vassalboro and cabbages gleaned from local gardens and farms like Mistybrook in Albion. There will be an afternoon of cider-pressing on the front lawn and a Saturday of folding savory dumplings. All food prepped in these sessions will be served during the dinner on October 22nd, an occasion that celebrates the bounty we are surrounded by this time of year. Events are open to all ages and abilities!
For anyone interested in participating please see the Grange’s October Event Calendar below. All take place at the East Vassalboro Grange Hall: 357 Main Street E. Vassalboro, ME 04935. Anyone wanting to learn more about the grange, crush their apples into cider, and meet new neighbors are encouraged to come!
Sunday, October 2: 5 pm: Philosopher’s Table. Discussion topic: Land Ethic and the expansion of an ethical community to include parts of the ecosystem.
Thursday, October 6th: 2-6 pm: Sauerkraut & applesauce making. Please bring your own sharp knife, cutting board, and a large mixing bowl if you have these items!
Saturday, October 8th: 9 am – 5 pm: Dumpling making day. We especially need hands for this day, even if you can only come for a few hours.
Sunday, October 16: 2 pm: Grange monthly community event –– Cider pressing! Bring your apples and containers to fill with cider.
Saturday, October 22: 6 pm: Harvest Dinner is served! Tickets are $20/person. Pre-ordering is required.
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The two Vassalboro select board members present at the Sept. 15 meeting (board chairman Barbara Redmond was on vacation) unanimously approved a three-item local ballot to be presented to town voters at the polls on Nov. 8.
The first item is election of a moderator, traditionally done by those present as the polls open at 8 a.m. in the town office building.
The second item is approval or rejection of a new “Moratorium Ordinance on Commercial Solar Arrays.”
The third item is election of a member from Vassalboro of the Kennebec Water District Board of Trustees. Frank Richards is Vassalboro’s current representative, and according to the KWD website the board’s vice-chairman. Town Clerk Cathy Coyne said in an email that his name will be on the ballot for re-election.
The two-page moratorium ordinance applies only to commercial solar developments, defined as “a solar energy collection structure of any size that is distributed to the electric power grid and not credited to one or more designated end users.”
The ordinance says if voters approve the moratorium, it will be in effect for 180 days, unless the select board decides on a shorter or longer term, to give select board and planning board members time to add amendments to current local ordinances “to protect the public from health and safety risks.”
While the moratorium, if approved, is in effect, no town official is allowed to “accept, process, approve, deny, or in any other way act upon” an application for any aspect of a commercial solar installation.
A public hearing on the proposed moratorium is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 29, in the town office meeting room, at the beginning of the next select board meeting. Select board members intend to meet with the planning board at that board’s Oct. 4 meeting.
Select board members and road foreman Eugene Field agreed on two other matters at the Sept. 15 meeting.
Board members approved Field’s request to spend $100,500 for a lightly used 2012 Case International tractor, with a front bucket, and a 16-foot-boom brushhog roadside mower to attach to the side of the tractor.
At the June 6 part of Vassalboro’s 2022 annual town meeting, voters appropriated $106,000 for the purchase, which will eliminate the need to rent roadside mowing equipment. Field plans to use the tractor generously in 2023 to catch up on clearing town roadsides.
He said he intends to store it in the salt shed for now, but when the 2023 public works budget is prepared, he will probably ask for additional equipment storage space.
Town Manager Mary Sabins said that as the Maine Department of Transportation plans to rebuild sidewalks in North Vassalboro, engineer Douglas Coombs asked whether town officials want to replace the current granite curbing with granite again, or with concrete slipform.
Concrete slipform, or poured concrete, is less expensive, but, Sabins said, Coombs told her it requires occasional maintenance treatments.
After discussion, with Field participating, the two select board members voted to ask the highway department to install new granite curbing. They cited the maintenance as an argument against concrete. Field added that granite is more durable.
In other action, board members approved a proclamation recognizing the week of Sept. 17 through Sept 23 as Constitution Week.
They granted four permits to serve liquor at events at St. Bridget’s Center, in North Vassalboro.
Payments approved included $150 to the Town of China, to allow Vassalboro residents to bring confidential papers to the annual shredding event at the China Public Works building on Alder Park Road, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15.
Sabins said as a past president of the Maine Municipal Association, she has been invited to MMA’s Oct. 5 and 6 annual meeting, at the association’s expense. Select board members appointed her a voting delegate.
The next regular Vassalboro select board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29, in the town office meeting room.
Vassalboro select board to meet in executive session
by Mary Grow
The Vassalboro Select Board will meet in Executive Session on Monday, September 26, at 5 p.m., at the Town Office to make a plan to replace the town manager who has expressed her intention to retire effective January 2, 2023. The board will talk with two executive search firms about services they can offer the select board. This meeting will be closed to the public.
Vassalboro Planning Board members unanimously approved both applications on their Sept. 6 agenda, a new business and an extension of a solar development permit.
Elijah Bunten has approval to open a diesel mechanic shop in the smallest of several barns near his home at 203 Dunham Road, between Dunham Road and Riverside Drive, provided he gets any other necessary permits.
The business might need a Maine Department of Transportation highway entrance permit to continue using the Riverside Drive end of the driveway that runs through the property from one road to the other, because Riverside Drive is state Route 201.
Bunten might also need a DOT permit for the business sign he intends to put on the highway.
Because the business is close to his house, Bunten said he does not intend to accumulate vehicles in the yard. Planning board members approved a limit of 10 operating vehicles and two unregistered. Most will be diesel pick-up trucks, Bunten said, with a few tractors and similar small to medium-size vehicles.
Operating hours will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Waste oil and other fluids will be stored inside the building and disposed of properly. Bunten plans to have no employees “in the foreseeable future”; he does not intend to add a waiting room or plumbing.
The second application was from Sun Vest Solar for a six-month extension of its permit for a solar farm on Webber Pond Road. Board chairman Virginia Brackett said Sun Vest’s project, like others, was waiting for approval to connect to Central Maine Power Company’s grid.
Board members talked briefly about the proposed solar moratorium ordinance that select board members are scheduled to discuss at their Sept. 15 meeting, with the intention of asking voters to approve it at the polls Nov. 8. Planners agreed that until they see the wording of the draft ordinance, they cannot tell whether it will affect requests to extend previously-approved permits.
The next regular Vassalboro Planning Board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 4. Paul Mitnik, temporarily reverting from board member to his former job as Vassalboro codes officer, said the agenda is likely to include applications for commercial solar developments.
The Windsor Historical Society is offering an evening talk with John Bunker who will share his knowledge of Maine apple trees on Wednesday, October 12.
John Bunker is an apple historian, gardener and orchardist. In 1984 he started the cooperative mail-order nursery Fedco Trees. In 2012 he founded the Maine Heritage Orchard, in Unity. His recent book, Apples and the Art of Detection recounts his 40 years of tracking down, identifying and preserving rare apples. He lives with Cammy Watts on Superchilly Farm, in Palermo. To contact John or to learn more about John and Cammy’s activities, go to outonalimbapples.com.
There is no fee to attend but seating is limited. The talk will take place in the Malta Room, on the Windsor Historical Society grounds, Windsor Fairgrounds, at 7 p.m.
Please see the Windsor Historical Society page on Facebook for contact information.
One agenda item at the Vassalboro select board’s Thursday, Sept. 15, meeting is a review of a solar moratorium ordinance that board members intend to ask voters to approve on Nov. 8.
At their Aug. 11 meeting, select board members voted unanimously to have the town attorney draft a moratorium ordinance. The purpose would be to postpone action on requests for commercial solar developments in town until after voters approve regulations specific to such developments.
Planning board members have already approved several commercial solar projects, adapting provisions of the existing Site Review Ordinance. Discussions have pointed out the desirability of additional rules for solar, like a requirement that the developer provide a plan and funding to restore the property after the solar panels’ useful life ends.
Planning board member Douglas Phillips said that the town can either adopt a separate new ordinance to govern commercial solar projects, or add rules for such developments to the Site Review Ordinance. He prefers the second route.
The select board meets at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 15 in the town office meeting room.
Following weeks of speculation, the test results were confirmed, on Friday, September 9, that Webber Pond, in Vassalboro, has tested positive for toxic algae blooms.
According to Linda Bacon, at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, “scum collected Wednesday afternoon [September 7] tested positive for microcystin this afternoon, an algal toxin that causes damage to the liver.”
Bacon added, “you’ve always had cyanobacteria blooms! This year was just particularly bad.”
Concentrations exceed EPA’s drinking water threshold and their recreation standard. Bacon continued, “Rapid tests were performed on the samples at DEP. The rapid tests do not provide numeric results, but assume that the concentrations of microcystin are likely to be 100-1,000 times these limits, which is typical of scums.”
According to Bacon, it is very likely that concentrations in open water do not exceed the recreation limit, based on data DEP has collected over the past few years.
The overall message is: don’t drink water taken from an area where scums are present or have been present recently (within the last two weeks). Don’t let pets drink the water and don’t let them in the water if scums are present. If they get scum on their fur, rinse them off with fresh water as soon as possible.
Do not let children play in the scums. Scums are quite tempting as they look like paint, so children will paint the rocks on the shoreline, the dock, or whatever is nearby while having lots of fun.
If you get your water from the lake, do not use it for cooking or drinking; make sure showers are short.
Bacon said, “although water treatment systems for algal toxins are still being refined, evidence suggests that it is a good idea to have two filters on an intake line, the one closest to the lake being a coarse filter (looks like wound string), followed by an activated charcoal filter. The charcoal filters are more expensive and would clog quickly if the coarse filter was not in place.”
Cyanotoxins have acute health effects in humans. The most common Cyanobacteria producing toxin, Microcystin-LR, will produce abdominal pain, headache, sore throat, vomiting and nausea, dry cough, diarrhea, blistering around the mouth, and pneumonia
Microcystis, Dolichospermum (previously Anabaena) were observed in the sample along with Aphanizomenon.
Referring to the drawdown on Septembeer 18, “Regardless, I would remove as many boards as you can [from the dam], but I wouldn’t leave the boards out. If we end up in another year of drought, it could become a water level issue next summer. Keep track of flows and when the flow decreases to what the usual end-of-drawdown has been, begin replacing the boards.
Concerning the alewife egress from the lake, “one thing that can happen – not saying that it did – is that adult spawners get trapped and die in the lake along with all the nutrients in their bodies. It will be very important to make sure adults can leave the lake post-spawning to minimize this issue.
No lakes or ponds have been put on advisory just yet
Following the news that a couple of dogs in southern Maine had to be euthanized following their exposure to a blue-green toxic algae bloom, this news was released by Lakes in Maine.
According to them, six lakes in Maine are at high risk for a blue-green toxic algae bloom. In our immediate area, Webber Pond, in Vassalboro, in on the short list of six lakes.
While the algae has been spotted in Maine lakes in the past, this year no lakes or ponds have been put on advisory just yet. However, officials have rated the waterways in the state based on their likelihood of having it before the summer’s end.
Many lakes in Maine see algae blooms every year and officials are closely watching to make sure residents are aware of any blooms that become toxic.
The toxic blue-green algae is actually called Cyanobacteria and it thrives in warm water. This warmer water is not unusual here in the summer, which is why reports of it typically happen in the warmer months. Learn to recognize what this bacteria looks like when you’re checking for toxic algae.
Many lakes and rivers have seemingly foreign objects and foam floating in them. Most of these things are harmless. But the algae that can cause illness is known by its blue-green color. You’ll want to avoid it wherever you can. Children and pets are especially susceptible.
Those topping the list are, in alphabetical order: 1. Annabessacook Lake, in Monmouth, 2. Cross Lake, in Aroostook County, 3. Georges Pond, in Franklin, 4. Sebasticook Lake, in Newport, 5. Trafton Lake, in Limestone and 6. Webber Pond, in Vassalboro. There are plenty of great lakes in the state that are safe for swimming, or just hiking, camping, or enjoying views. Check out more about lakes in Maine that you can feel free to enjoy.
Coming into contact with the toxic algae can cause rashes, skin irritations, and even some gastrointestinal illnesses. You’ll see these symptoms even more severely in children and pets.
Officials urge folks to be mindful of any standing bodies of water. Always do a check for discolored water or “froth” that has a bluish color to it before you swim or come into contact with water. If contact is made, be sure to wash it off with clear and fresh water as soon as possible. You might be worried if you run into toxic algae in Maine, but there won’t be any long-term problems to worry about if you wash it all off right away.
Remember that fish can also be affected. If you fish in any water that might be affected by the blue-green algae, be sure to clean the it well before cooking at a high temperature.
To keep track of the Maine lakes at highest risk of cyanobacteria advisories, check out the official state website.
If you’ve been affected by any of the algae blooms this summer, they would like to hear your experience. Contact them at https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/maine/toxic-blue-green-algae-me/.
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